An earthquake shook the auto industry in 2023. It wasn't the post-pandemic effects, nor the semiconductor shortage. The big wave came from a company that turned 20 years old last year. Tesla, the California-based EV brand and one of Elon Musk's first companies, now builds the best-selling vehicle in the world.

Although many global markets have not yet released full-year sales data, preliminary data collected by JATO Dynamics and Car Industry Analysis indicates the Tesla Model Y has taken the lead. Final data will be available in the second quarter.

Best Selling Cars Globally 2023

Presently, we have figures for the United States and Canada, most of Europe, China, Australia, New Zealand, major Latin American markets, many Southeast Asian markets, Russia, Turkey, and Israel. Added to these are partial end-of-year estimates for the Middle East and North Africa, Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and a few smaller regions.

Indicators for these markets show that the Tesla Model Y sold 1.23 million units in 2023. This is a 64 percent increase compared to 2022. Although lower than the annual growth recorded in 2022 compared to 2021 (which was a 91-percent increase), we're looking at a massive uptick in volume.

Queen Of Europe And China

The Model Y has excelled in these regions, the two largest EV markets in the world. According to data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, over 456,000 units were shipped in China, a growth of 45 percent.

As expected, in Europe the Model Y surpassed the registrations of best-selling cars like the Dacia Sandero, the Peugeot 208, and the Volkswagen T-Roc. Data from 30 markets shows the brand registered over 255,000 units, which is 19,000 more than the second most popular car, the Sandero.

Based on Tesla's official delivery data, the Model Y is expected to account for two out of three vehicles delivered by the company in 2023.

Best Selling Cars Globally 2023

Toyota Steps Down From The Throne

The Model Y's impressive results came at the expense of Toyota, namely the RAV4 and Corolla. These two vehicles have led the global rankings in recent years. Toyota's strong presence around the world and the competitiveness of the RAV4 as an SUV and the Corolla as a compact car have kept these vehicles in top spots.

However, neither model plays in the pure electric market, which is still growing around the world. Toyota has instead banked on hybrid powertrains to gain ground around in the global electrified realm. And while it's worked well for the company in terms of sales, it now lacks a major growth driver in markets like China and Europe.

Best Selling Cars Globally 2023

Still, Toyota isn't far behind. Preliminary data shows the Toyota RAV4 in second with 1.07 million units sold. The current-generation SUV will turn six years old in March, which is one year older than the Model Y. The Toyota Corolla is also close behind in third, logging 1.01 million global sales with all its body styles factored in.

The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.

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